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Behind the Scenes at Canva Create, the Brand's Massive Festival of Creativity

The graphic design platform's largest-ever event drew 3,500 people for a day of keynotes, product demos, community spotlights, activations, and more.

Behind the Scenes at Canva Create
Canva Create took place on May 23 at Hollywood Park, home to SoFi Stadium and the 6,000-seat YouTube Theater.
Photo: Desmond Studios

LOS ANGELES—For its largest event to date, graphic design platform Canva transformed a previously exclusive corporate keynote into a sprawling, public-facing festival of creativity, drawing 3,500 attendees and 2.5 million online viewers for a day filled with innovation, design, and digital exploration in Los Angeles.

Canva Create, which took place on May 23, was a partnership between creative and experiential agency Public School and Canva’s internal experiential, marketing, and partnership teams. The entire planning process took about eight months, recalled Rob Blasko, vice president of strategy and brand for Public School, kicking off when Public School invited Canva’s experiential team to join them for a full-day creative workshop. 

“We ideated together on a strategic approach for their upcoming slate of events and experiences, as well as some creative thought starters for how those might come to life,” Blasko explained. “Having shown off our chops—and really hitting it off with their team—we were brought on board to formally participate in their brand experiences.”

Canva has hosted several iterations of Canva Create in the past, though it was always positioned as a live keynote experience for “Canvanauts” (employees of the brand) along with a post-event livestream presentation for a global audience. But this year, for the first time, Canva decided to open the live experience to the public with a full-day creative festival featuring keynotes, product demos, thought leadership panels, workshops, community spotlights, and more. Behind the Scenes at Canva CreateIn addition to connecting to the Canva community of educators, creators, small businesses, corporate teams, and enterprise industry leaders, the brand used Canva Create to unveil its latest features—including enhanced AI capabilities and an interface redesign—as well as to formally launch Canva Enterprise.Photo: Desmond Studios

The daylong event included an impressive lineup of more than 50 speakers. “Our stage programming was the heart of the event experience,” said Blasko, noting that content was hosted on three formal stages in addition to a guided demo space.

The Create Stage in the venue’s YouTube Theater hosted keynotes and panels from the likes of Bob Iger, Mindy Kaling, and Adam Grant, while the Design & Innovation Stage featured sessions curated by Fast Company and moderated by Mark Wilson and Damian Slattery. The Canva for You Stage, meanwhile, spotlighted Canva users—ranging from individual content creators to enterprise clients like Salesforce and Expedia Group—who discussed various ways to use the Canva platform, while the Canva Learning Studio hosted micro-sessions. Behind the Scenes at Canva Create"The Create Stage, our largest stage, featured our opening keynote presentation and keynote speakers and panels—as well as an amazing panel discussion on 'Being a Force for Good' (one of Canva’s core values) featuring Mychal the Librarian, artist Thomas Dambo, and education advocate Zuriel Oduwole," said Blasko.Photo: Desmond StudiosBehind the Scenes at Canva CreateSmaller stages included the Design & Innovation Stage, where sessions included Guy Kawasaki on visual storytelling, Talia Cotton and Johanna Roca on rebranding, and Armin Vit on brand building done right. And on the Canva for You Stage (pictured), a variety of Canva users—individual content creators, small-business owners, educators, and enterprise clients including Salesforce and Expedia Group—highlighted how they use the Canva platform.Photo: Desmond Studios

Beyond the programming, activations included a DIY swag shop offering custom gradient tote bags, a headshot hub for professional headshots, and hands-on demo sessions and one-on-one consultations at the Canva Learning Studio.

“Finding the right venue for Canva Create was most certainly one of our biggest challenges,” said Blasko, noting that the team explored more than 50 venues in the Los Angeles area, looking for a location that could hold the target guest count, ensure aproper guest flow, have easy access from across the city, be sustainability conscious, and have an energy that was on brand for Canva. “We knew that a convention center or hotel venue wouldn’t be the right fit for the experience, and I think we found a good pick in Hollywood Park." Behind the Scenes at Canva Create"The DIY Swag Shop offered custom gradient tote bags, in a rainbow of Canva colors, for guests to take home," said Blasko. "After selecting a bag color, they were invited to pick from a huge selection of patches—re-creations of iconic Canva interface elements—that were then pressed onto their totes. These completely custom and sustainable giveaways were a huge hit!"Photo: Desmond StudiosBehind the Scenes at Canva CreateGuests could also attend hands-on demo sessions at the Canva Learning Studio, where the Canva Consultations experience offered personalized, one-on-one sessions with Canva staffers.Photo: Desmond StudiosBehind the Scenes at Canva CreateBeyond demo stations, the Canva Learning Lab also hosted micro-sessions hosted by Canvanauts, including workshops on creating social videos, developing internal comms materials, using Magic Studio AI tools effectively, and more.Photo: Desmond Studios

While the event was hosted on a single campus, the main stage was physically located in a different space from the other programming and activations, Blasko added. “While it was only a short distance between the two areas, it did require a trip down stairs or in an elevator—which meant we had to create the right balance of programming to assure guests would travel back and forth between each space, and without causing any guest flow issues,” he explained. “Between our marquee programming on our main stage and our interactive elements on the plaza, I think we landed on a great mix of elements across the property.” Behind the Scenes at Canva CreateThere were also a variety of photo ops (pictured), along with a headshot station. "This simple activation gave guests the opportunity to have a professional headshot taken with actual photographers, against a Canva-inspired color gradient background," said Blasko, who noted that the team didn’t include any formal event branding on the photos so guests would have a usable headshot for the future. "To make the experience seamless, we took a Disney best practice—after having their photo was taken, guests scanned a QR code from their photographer that instantly linked them to a website with all their photos for easy downloading."Photo: Desmond StudiosBehind the Scenes at Canva CreateBlasko noted some logistical challenges in hosting multiple audience tracks for more than 3,000 attendees. “The event welcomed a variety of guests across many verticals, and when you layer in additional custom guest journeys for speakers and VIPs, investors, media/press, and partners, it definitely becomes a lot to manage,” he explained. “Between our internal logistics teams and wonderful support from multiple stakeholders at Canva, we were able to create a compelling and seamless event experience for all guests.”Photo: Desmond Studios

For the online audience, the team opted to recast the keynote presentation rather than build out a full-scale hybrid experience. “The primary livestream was presented within the Canva platform—meaning our digital guests were able to live, breathe, and play with the product while watching the keynote,” Blasko noted. "And from a show development standpoint, we focused a lot on camera angles to make sure the viewpoint for our virtual audience was immersive and compelling.” Behind the Scenes at Canva Create“Under the leadership of Jimmy Knowles, global head of experiential at Canva, our team was able to produce a bold, impactful, and uniquely Canva experience for a global audience,” said Blasko.Photo: Desmond StudiosBehind the Scenes at Canva CreateUltimately, what stands out the most to Blasko is the sense of joy he observed in attendees. “The Canva community is so friendly, cheerful, and kind,” he said. “The atmosphere was welcoming and quite electric, and the activations and event programming gave guests the space to connect, meet new friends, and celebrate creativity and Canva. It was quite a sight to see a teacher from rural Iowa swapping design tips with a marketer from a small business in Phoenix, all among the festival environment in Los Angeles.”Photo: Desmond Studios

And yes, Blasko has seen the tweets criticizing the moment in the keynote presentation that included a rap performance about Canva's enterprise-ready product. “Some have deemed it ‘cringe,’ a tech company trying to be ‘cool.’ But honestly, that moment in the show was perfect,” he said. “It was fun and cheeky, just like the Canva brand.”

Not to mention, it fulfilled many of the event’s objectives—not only by getting people talking about Canva Enterprise (the moment has more than 50 million views and counting, and was a Twitter/X trending topic), but also by being “bold, unique, and totally ownable,” Blasko pointed out. “In a sea of formulaic and boring product announcement moments, Canva Create offered a refreshing experience for guests—and that’s something we’ll continue to champion for Canva, and any other brands that dare to do something different.”

He added, “Honestly, brands willing to be courageous like that are our favorite partners.”


Strategy, Creative, Design, Production, Logistics: Public School
Fabrication: Czarnowski
Venue: Hollywood Park
Keynote Lighting: Lightswitch
Keynote Choreography: Silent House
Keynote Talent Stylist: Kelly Palomino
Swag: Family Industries
Headshot Photography: Hypno
Signage: Code Four
Propping/Decor: Little Apple Projects
Event Coverage: Desmond Studios

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